Microsoft Windows Competitive FactorsBy Ericka Chickowski | Posted 2008-10-28 Print
How will Microsoft adjust its operating system software strategies with Windows 7, cloud computing, software as a service and beyond? Baseline digs in to the Windows operating system now and in the future. Will Microsoft continue to dominate the market or will a shakeup of traditional enterprise software practices force Microsoft out of its dominant position?
Microsoft Windows Competitive Factors
As Windows 7 comes to the market, it will not only face scrutiny because of Vista’s back history, but also because of the increasing legitimacy of Microsoft’s competitors. But that may not be a bad thing, Didio says. “I think Linux and open source are one of the best things that happened to Microsoft,” she explains. “It got them on their toes and that’s always a good thing.”
These days more and more consumers and businesses are considering open source distributions such as Red Hat and Ubuntu as a viable alternative to Windows, as opposed to being a pipe dream as in the past. Gerry Carr, marketing manager of Canonical, which sponsors Ubuntu and offers support services for both Ubuntu desktop and server users, isn’t convinced that Microsoft is sweating this competition too much—but that it is forcing the company to adjust its practices.
“I think once the world sees that there are alternatives that people will accept instead of Windows and Apple, the compelling case that they’re the only games in town becomes less compelling, and it will be difficult [for them] to sustain their prices,” Carr says. “It’s not that I believe that Microsoft is going to disappear, it’s just going to change, and I think the open source alternative is going to be the agent for that change.”
Ubuntu has certainly been raising some eyebrows with the amount of traction it has gained in the past 18 months, bumping up from zero market share to a very modest 3 percent, according to IDC.
Although that doesn’t make a considerable dent in Microsoft’s bottom line, it does prove that customers are looking for other options.
“Customers are making a decision increasingly driven by cost, but they think at its fundamental level it’s about choice,” Carr says.
For example, Canonical recently signed on Wikipedia as an Ubuntu support customer. The IT department is using this open distribution for three major reasons, Carr says. First, staffers already had some Linux skills. Second, they wanted to have more control over their systems—being able to add more servers without having to worry about renegotiating license contracts. And, perhaps most importantly, they wanted to be able to access code to fix and customize it at their own discretion.
These control issues are definitely big points of contention for certain segments of the market, Carr says. “I don’t think Microsoft is sitting there too worried; they’ve got a pretty nice market base going that doesn’t care about some of those issues,” he says. “They’re very happy to pay for the license, pay for the support. But what I think is changing is that in the past you had very little choice—even if [the control situation] wasn’t OK for you. You’d have to use Microsoft anyway.”
Of course, for many organizations it isn’t just a binary choice of Microsoft or open source. Most enterprises that do go open source still use Microsoft. This, says Didio, is an important piece of the debate. Although Microsoft must compete with Linux and other open source choices, it must also service customers that want the flexibility to operate a mixed environment with Windows without having to worry about interoperability issues. This, she believes, will continue to grow as an issue that will affect Windows’ future success.
“I think what customers want is flexibility,” she says. “They do not want to just be tied to one environment and, of course, this flies in the face of that sort of locked-in strategy that not just Microsoft, but all of the vendors have had.” She believes, though, that Microsoft’s agreement with Novell is a symbol of Microsoft’s willingness to play ball with competitors for the benefit of its customers. “Ballmer is nothing if not pragmatic, so one of the things that they’re doing is trying to make themselves more attractive from a licensing standpoint with these new technologies,” she explains.
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